Ever wondered about the strange slightly musky, preserved smells of the dried seafood shops in the area? Chinese New Year holidays is the perfect time to be a bit adventurous and celebrate in the local way by venturing into a dried seafood shop on the hunt.
While Chinese dried goods like preserved sausages （臘腸）, ham （金華火腿）, dried fish maw 花膠, dried sea cucumber (海參), dried scallop are an acquired taste and take quite some time to select and prepare, some retail shops and restaurants sell pre-packaged and pre-cooked Chinese New Year traditional dishes made from such ingredients.
First and foremost, a few facts for the newcomer to dried seafood shopping:
Dried Seafood shops are an awesome place to get beans, nuts and frozen seafood at wholesale or near-wholesale prices. Beans and nuts are sometimes available in big tubs so bring your own jar for a low waste lifestyle. If you can’t find something—just ask! For price comparison, refer to below weight measurements:
One catty （一斤）shown on most price signs = 600 grams = 0.6 kg
So, when you see HK$56 for one catty （一斤）of cashew nuts (edible straight or can be cooked for kungpao chicken), that means you’re paying HK$56 for 600 grams (or 0.6 kg) of cashews.
2. To get basics on what the dried seafood is, see here: http://www.hkjebn.com/en/mo/knowledge/dried-seafood2 and here: https://www.afoodieworld.com/4mg3cl4a99al7/6230-a-beginner-s-guide-to-dried-seafood-palate-friendly-recipes
3. Frozen seafood in dried seafood shops are sometimes sold by weight or by piece. There is a variety of cutting methods (deboned, with skin), origins (e.g. Chile, South of France/ Provence , Canada) and types of fish available (e.g. seabass, whole turbot fish, cod fish, wild caught salmon). Look out for country of origin on the labels.
4. For reputed dried seafood seller you can trust, search the shops which are recommended by the Hong Kong government’s Quality Tourism Services scheme, search website here: http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/shop/qts-scheme/search.jsp . Knowing how to tell fakes from the authentic dried seafood is only for professionals or the true connoisseurs.
In Pic: An example of the Quality Certificate
5. If you buy in bulk or are a frequent customer, feel free to bargain!
6. Buy a Chinese-English recipe book, ask the shop for recipes/ defrosting method, browse online for delicious recipes and it’s ok to cheat a little by buying the pre-prepared abalones in a can.
So for this CNY, why not try your hand at making Slow-Cooked Sea Cucumber in Sea Urchin Broth with veggies (see recipe below)? Come on! We do try some peculiar food like foie gras with open minds😉😉 .
Recipe: Slow cooked Sea Cucumber in Sea Urchin Broth
Primary ingredients: prepared Sea Cucumber
Supplementary ingredients: fresh veg, ginger, spring onions, garlic
Seasonings: Stock, oysters, salt, sugar, white pepper powder, sesame oil, rice wine and corn starch
Step 1: Cut the sea cucumber into large chunks, scald briefly and set aside, heat wok with oil, sauté ginger slices and spring onion, then add stock braise sea cucumber until flavorful.
Step 2: Mix pepper, sesame oil and wine with sea cucumber, simmer over low heat with a little amount of stock until cooked, drain and set aside.
Step 3: Add oyster sauce, salt and sugar and sesame oil to stock, bring to boil over low heat, thicken with cornstarch to form the sauce.
Step 4: Place the sea cucumbers on plate, add sea urchin on top, pour in the sauce. Serve with stir fried veggies at the side of the plate.
Kung Hei Fat Choy!
Special thanks to Mr. Kenneth So of Hai Sang Hong dried seafood shop (www.haisanghong.com), Address: Hai Sang Hong, G/F, Singga Commercial Centre, 149 Connaught Road West, Hong Kong for giving us special pointers.